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FA and EFL disagree over abolition of FA Cup replays


The FA Cup trophy. /CFP
The FA Cup trophy. /CFP

The FA Cup trophy. /CFP

The Football Association (FA) of England, the country's football governing body, released a statement on Friday to defend the decision to abolish replays of FA Cup matches after the decision drew criticism from the English Football League (EFL). The EFL comprises clubs in the second, third and fourth tiers of English football. Until this season, matches in the knockout competition that ended in draws were to be replayed up to the fourth round of the competition, with the team that played away first hosting the replay.

"Removing Emirates FA Cup replays was discussed in the early meetings and all parties accepted that they could not continue," the FA said in the statement. "The discussions then focused on how to make all of our competitions stronger, despite having fewer dates available and wanting to maintain player welfare."

The abolition of the first-round replays was announced on Thursday. The EFL's chief executive, Trevor Birch, called it "frustrating and disappointing." Multiple EFL clubs said that they, together with the National League – the league structure below the EFL – and the grassroots stakeholders, had not been consulted over the decision.

"The calendar for next season was approved by the Professional Game Board, which consists of four EFL representatives and four Premier League representatives, last month, and then by the FA Board, which includes Premier League, EFL, National Game and grassroots representation. This is the process we undergo every year to approve the calendar," the FA said in the statement.

The logo of the Premier League. /CFP
The logo of the Premier League. /CFP

The logo of the Premier League. /CFP

The EFL argued that it was involved in initial conversations around the change in format and that it was not consulted formally, nor did it agree to abolish the first-round replays.

"The agreement which now sees the abolition of replays from the competition format was agreed solely between the Premier League and FA," the EFL said in a statement. "Ahead of the deal being announced there was no agreement with the EFL nor was there any formal consultation with EFL clubs as members of the FA and participants in the competition."

The last time replays were scrapped from the FA Cup was in 2018, with fifth-round replays being done away with. Despite the criticism from the EFL and lower divisions this time, managers of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta, and Brentford, Thomas Frank, supported the FA’s decision.

"I understand every point of view," Arteta said. "Ours and mine is to protect our players. When I looked at how many minutes and games they've played in the last two years with no breaks, how many they're going to have to play in the next two years, that's not healthy for sure. Somehow, somewhere, we have to reduce the calendar. That's for sure."

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